The sight of a 4,200-pound octopus mermaid poised to soar into the air can startle some visitors to Colorado Springs, Colorado. A second glance at this unusual creature will reassure onlookers, since the recycled metal sculpture called “Iscariot” stands in the city’s downtown as part of its Art on the Streets initiative. The program turns the city’s downtown into an outdoor museum. It’s one of several ways Colorado Springs offers high-quality art to the masses.
Colorado Springs also boasts formal art galleries at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, theater at the Ent Center for the Arts and high-end local art for sale at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post.
Explore this Rocky Mountain art haven for a culturally immersive and entertaining experience.
Art on the Streets
In 1998, city officials created the Art on the Streets program as a way to help locals and visitors experience the area’s art culture free of charge. They hoped it would help revitalize the downtown core, which had witnessed an exodus of businesses over the past couple of decades.
In June, Art on the Streets, now in its 20th year of operation, released a new batch of sculptures throughout downtown; also new were some anniversary exhibits, a limited-edition coffee table book and themed tours.
“Generally, there are about 11 sculptures,” said Chelsy Offutt, director of communications for Visit Colorado Springs. “This year, there are 17 art installations. It’s a great way to experience the Colorado outdoors while getting a taste of our arts and culture scene.”
Group leaders can book a guided tour through the convention and visitors bureau, or let travelers roam free with a GPS-based Otocast app for a self-guided audio tour of the city’s permanent and rotating works of art. Morning coffee walks or evening happy hour walks add a beverage to the experience. Tours and the app explain the inspiration behind each work and background information on the artists.
The city hosts a First Friday Art Walk downtown for access to art galleries as well as the public art. During the event, trolleys run to nearby historic Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City for additional art, charming boutiques and local restaurants.